I’m reading about the healing properties of the prickly pear cactus and watching two squirrels cavort in a snow shrouded Linden tree. Rosetta cat is nesting at my feet and the delicate winter daylight falls into evening, swaddling us in untroubled quiet.
There is no better time than February, no better place than the hush of one’s own sleeping room, and no more exquisite a backdrop than a soft lingering snowfall in the Rocky Mountains to be laid down with the allied ailment dubbed “the Flu”.
The Flu. Funny word I’ve always thought. A dry, clipped word that denies the mouth and tongue the pleasure of movement. A pithy moniker that bares the teeth, clamps the lips, and stops the breath. But even more sadly, the term is a real story-stopper. It tells us nothing of the circumstances of the flu-zee, the one whom the condition has befallen. “Victoria has the flu.” “David won’t be joining us this evening. He has the flu.” “Janet won’t be driving us to the party. She’s come down with the flu.” This is all we know. This is all you need to know. Flu is flu. You ache, cough or squirt, frequently, sometimes both. The Flu is a somatic banality. A fated ambush one is entrained to detest, avoid, and defend against.
At its worst a petrifitic pernicious pandemic in waiting spawned by (but not limited to):
Each year, a new strain, more virulent than the last lurks in that invisible space between you and other; alienating attachments, fully charged with the potential to wipe out sizable swaths of the population. Don’t get too close. Sanitize. Disinfect. Anti-bacterialize. Sterilize. De-germinate. And if all else fails; Fumigate. (Warning: Don’t sit directly on the toilet seat, and for god’s sakes don’t touch the baby. Adopt a method to sneeze discreetly without drawing attention to yourself or spreading germs.)
Something’s gone awry between “man” and nature. (Rachel Carson warned of this in Silent Spring.) Have no fear! The enemy can be staved off; disabled, destroyed, clobbered by the advancements of modern military pharmacoptic science: (Tamiflu Rapivab Relenza and most critical of all for the safety of humanity the Flu Vaccine). Unfortunately, only temporarily halted for this combatant is a relentless stalker; a perennial annual.
Follow the sound and one can root out alluring alliterations;
Flu, fluv, flux: To flow
Fluent Flowing with Ease and Intelligence
Fluidity Quality of Feeling/Being Free
Origin: Fluminose: FLU minose (flue’ mi nose) adj. The root-word FLU is derivative of FLUC. Relating to rivers. Fluviose : FLU viose (flue’ vi ose) adj. The action or process of flowing. Continuous change, shift, movement. The total magnetic or electrical field passing through an area relating to rivers. Moving like a wave.
I had already accepted my astrological kismet (Chiron the wounded healer in the 10th house of professional destiny) when I took a job as a therapist at the Tillie Bemplin Mental Health Center. I knew by then that I was a roaming free radical; a danger to the patriachotic juggernaut and its fellowship of devout worshipers, and as free radicals go, prone to set off environmental conflagrations. I had stopped shaving under my arms, had read Gyn/Ecology and Rape of the Wild, and because of the Catholic School tour-of-duty and coming into contact with a few self-possessed Benedictine nus, at an early age I knew my body was MY BODY: A Holy Sacred Site imbued with Congenital Insurrection, Speaking the Language of Rhizome Resurrection. While other kids were in the church parking lot playing dodge ball and jump rope I was often in church wiping down the pews and kneelers or studying the Stations of the Cross.
One day when I was kneeling at the eighth station, the one where the women of Jerusalem come to be with Jesus, Sister Anamaria was feather dusting the altar when she told me that Jesus was talking to the women about their right and responsibility to be individuals and that they each had a very special independent self and a unique destiny. I think that was the moment I decided something important about myself which had no words or rationality. I simply knew that we were all born uncommon and remarkable. A gut sense of my own power passed into me and I knew that’s what Jesus was talking about and I carried that knowledge with me all through those Catholic school years; through the sit-ins, the freedom of speech contest, the solitary confinement in the art supply room, the expulsions, the donkey court for organizing a hallway protest over something or other. I couldn’t and wouldn’t abstain from agitating no matter how lonely I felt or how unpopular I became.
The Prime Minister of Surveillance at the Tillie Bemplin Mental Health Center was skulking about the corridors of the tangled old building when he listened in on a conversation I was having with the new intake secretary. “I don’t pee for anyone but myself,” I exclaimed as we were eating lunch in the dreary, barren employee room. I told the newbie I was starting up a petition to protest the ultramodern hiring policy that required potential employees to give a urine sample. “This is fascism!” I exclaimed with great zeal. And she was getting it; nodding her head, skin tone heating up, and it appeared that something in her pre-frontal cortex was beginning to unthaw. Mr. Counter-Intelligence walked in, bought a Mars bar from the odious vending machine and asked me to step out into the hallway with him.
Another feeble chastening hallway episode I thought to myself as I followed him out like a leashed cat. Of course by now, dear reader, you know how it went down. The insubordination write up, the threat of suspension, the nauseating cornball speech about behaving as a valuable team player, the required flu shot, and the most farcical; he would “accompany” me in the employee room and “escort” me to my bathroom breaks during my “re-training” period as it was determined I was now a high risk employee.
I bought a jumbo bag of Lays potato chips, a bottle of pinot blanc and sat under a Maple tree in a park with a bronze installation of towering heroic action figures commemorating the battle of Iwo Jima. Mission accomplished I said to myself luxuriating in the plush grass and the reality that I would never again have to enter that hoosegow. My circulation resumed and the stowed-away parts of Self showed up for this exodus soiree under the Maple as blood now flowed easily to my brain with the full comprehension that I had successfully exited the psycho-spiritual lock-down consortium: I felt like Me again. I was Me. Living and Alive, I resisted and recoiled from the softer, gentler gulag of enforced stupidity and obedience operating under the leaky pitiful umbrella of humanitarian do-goodery. I understood more than ever my vow to my moral Selfhood; with dangerous and daring thoughts now alit with an unflappable self-possessed ambition, another branch of my Flu-zee Self was stretching to meet the Sun.
My magnetic and electrical field had passed through yet another hostile man-made zone where rivers can’t exist, flowing freezes/seizes up, creativity, individuality crushed. We’re particle, wave, fluviotic shape-shifters in the flu-gnostic fabric of Infinite Time and Endless Space. Following the desire of my craving for real connection, I walk into the night to commune with a byzantium sky. The winking pinpricks of starlight assure me I am not alone and in the darkening boundless quiet the joy of knowing I am enfolded in a sea of love inside of this ginormous alive dancing water being sings me Home again.
The flu floods me with memories. Flowing feelings under the influence of flu expand my field of awareness. I burn with lucidity. Dreams conjure the shadow. My inner sight surges with insight. Here in this interstitial alteration, the Brilliant Body, it’s Plutonic Remembrance, surrenders to the moment. There is a gift to be received. Purgation. Restoration. Self Love. Seeing the small fine details of my own hand. Still Life. Be Still. And in the stillness a baptism occurs and when it is complete I remember that I am from the water and the body knows how to be a river and the river knows how to flow.